Voices: Forget new year’s resolutions – think of a ‘word of the year’ for 2023 to live by instead

What’s your word of the year for 2023? No, I don’t mean the Oxford word of the year 2022 (goblin mode) or Collins’ “permacrisis” – but your own personal word of the year for 2023.

Oh, you don’t have one? Well, you’ve come to the right place and the right person. Because I’m a coach – and word of the year is like coach catnip. Let me explain.

We’ve all heard of new year’s resolutions. Popular ones like “get fit” lead to an influx of people joining the gym in January, only to forget all about it come February.

How about doing it differently in 2023? Your personal word of the year is like new year’s resolutions, but better. New year’s resolutions 2.0, if you will. It’s a word – although it can be a phrase, if you prefer – that sums up your intention for the new year, how you want the year ahead to feel.

Your word of the year serves to inspire you, to motivate you and to help you zoom out. While new year’s resolutions target specific areas of your life such as health (get fit, lose weight) and wealth (save money, spend less), your word of the year is more “big picture” – it can be applied to many areas of your life. For example, my word of the year 2022 is “bloom”. Bloom has covered getting fit (health), more trips to the beach (wellbeing), simplifying my business finances and more.

Quite a few friends of mine went with “nourish” in 2022 – easy enough to understand why, coming out of a global pandemic. Another friend has chosen “adventure” as her word of the year for 2023, as come spring she’ll be jacking in her 9-5 and going on a trip around the world.

So how do you go about choosing your word of the year? Here’s how I do it. Firstly, with pen and paper to hand, I start with a simple reflection exercise, reflecting on the past year. I ask myself about what’s gone well; what hasn’t gone so well; is there anything I would do differently; do I have any other observations? I give myself an hour or so to think and get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper.

Secondly, I think about 2023 – what I want to do, what I want to focus on, how I want the year to feel. I’ll make a note of all of this. Finally, I’ll brainstorm a list of words that chime with all of this and then I begin the process of shortlisting. I love having a dictionary to hand at this point. And then sooner or later you’ll have whittled your way down to your word of the year. It can also help to do this exercise with a friend and bounce words back and forth to help you narrow it down.

Previous words of the year include “foundations” in 2018 (an important word but on reflection, not the most inspirational or motivational) and “become” in 2021 (maybe too inspirational and not grounded enough). I can’t remember my words of 2019 and 2020. I was guilty of setting them and then forgetting them, which brings me to my next point.

Once you’ve decided on your word of the year, decide how to keep it forefront in your mind. Bloom has been my most successful word of the year because I wrote it on every page of my diary and every month of my calendar. You could also make your word of the year your screensaver on your computer or mobile phone – or both. Keep your word front-of-mind so that it serves to inspire and motivate you all year round.

So, what’s my 2023 word of the year? I’m still working my way through the process. Well, we’ve still a few more days of December to go and I’m living out “bloom”. On my 2023 shortlist so far is “security” (good but not inspirational enough) and “prosper” (a strong contender). Time to get the thesaurus out, I think.

Talia Loderick is a money coach, helping people understand and take control of their behaviour with money so they can stop stressing and have enough to live well – now and in future